The Ibn Alfakhar Family

Scholars and Diplomats

The ibn Alfakhar family was one of the most distinguished in Christian Spain. They began in Granada but fled from the Almohads in mid-12th century. They settled in Toledo, where they were recognized by both the Jewish and Christian communities for their knowledge and skills. Abraham Abu Itzchak ibn Alfakhar was the Patriarch of the family. He was knowledged in Arabic and the Koran. King Alfonso VIII made him chief rabbi of Castille..He was sent on a diplomatic mission by King Alfonso VIII to the sultan of the Almohads in Morocco. He was a noted poet, and he also supported Hebrew poets. He wrote an Arabic eulogy for Alfonso VIII.

With permission from the authorities, he attacked "heretical" Karaite groups in Castile. In 1194, he married the daughter of Joseph ibn Shoshan, thus solidifying two remarkable Jewish dynasties.

Joseph ibn Alfakhar was a contemporary of Abraham. He was the court physician to Alfonso VIII. He was made the "nasi" over the entire Jewish community. He joined Abraham in their campaign against the Karaites.

His son, Judah ibn Alfakhar, served as physician to Ferdinand III of Castile during the first part of the 13th century. He was opposed to Maimonides' attempts to reconcile Torah revelation with philosophy, and he was one of the major forces in the Maimonidean Controversies. He maintained a written dispute with David Kimchi, the major defender of Maimonides.

Solomon ibn Alfakhar was a major tax collector for Toledo in the mid-14th century. He was also appointed by the archbishop to serve as chief rabbi and judge of the community.

from Gates to Jewish Heritage by David E. Lipman